I want to offer a follow-up thought to my last post about the how to cope with stress. If you have ever suffered from stress headaches, you may be wondering how the two layer approach applies. It’s difficult to imagine any living organism that doesn’t automatically change in some way in response to adverse conditions or strain. If you work 70 hours per week for 3 months straight, you are going to experience physiological changes. That’s Layer 1 stress and it is probably the prinicipal cause of stress headaches in that particular situation.
However, there almost always a second layer of stress that is in your power to do something about. This second layer of stress is at least a factor in your stress headaches, however large or small. Forcing yourself to take breaks, get out of the work area for lunch, use the stairs instead of the elevator, are but a few simple ways to address the Layer 2 stress of stress headaches.
But here is the interesting thing: Layer 2 is not about little things you can do, it might include looking for a new job so that you don’t have to work 70 hourse per week for 3 months straight. Or, perhaps switching jobs is unthinkable in the present job climate. But your way of thinking about your supervisor’s expectations may be largely layer 2 stress. You may have the erroneous assumption that the only way to keep your job or to be productive is to work hours that give you frequent stress headaches. It may be that learning how to be more assertive (pleasantly) would allow you to negotiate less hours. In other words, how much of your “requirement” to work 70 hours is due to your fear and weak negotiation skills (Layer 2) and how much is due to hard-and-fast demands of the job?